“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”― Pablo Picasso
I am a big believer in the power of changing your perspective to look at a problem in a different light.
A new and possibly enhanced perspective may be highly beneficial to your creativity.
For the longest time, unknown to myself, I had been using the power of personas to bring creative solutions to problems.
Then I came across the wonderful book by innovation firm IDEO’s Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman. The book is The Ten faces of Innovation (affiliate link).
Kelley and Littman outline different personas or social masks that IDEO uses to solve problems.
This post contains some of the personas described by Kelley and Littman from their book.
This post also contains personas that I have found valuable to enhance creativity in others and myself.
I have recently written a post titled 21 Archetypes and Personas That Block Your Creativity.
This post is to highlight the creative advantages that personas can bring to your creativity.
What are some ways that personas enhance your creativity?
1. The Artist Persona
“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent van Gogh
When you embrace your inner creative artist and unleash your creativity, you are in this persona.
You take charge in creating something new and would not have it any other way.
You can allow this persona to be dominant by implementing or allowing the following ideas:
Mixing and matching things in your field together.
Searching for Different possibilities.
Thriving on Creative and novel solutions.
You paint solutions to a problem by bringing color, medium, environment and story together.
Having a high amount of “creative confidence.”
Creative solutions and engagement excites you.
The world is a canvas to unleash your creative side.
You spend a good portion of your time creating and synthesizing, even if it is just for the sake of creative expression.
“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” — Henry David Thoreau
2. The Engineer Or The Builder Persona
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” John Cage
The engineer persona loves to take apart things and build things in a creative and novel way.
The engineer loves to fix things and in the process generates novel creative solutions by putting things back in a new and useful way.
Problem solving by taking action and construction is a natural ability when you are in this persona.
James Dyson, the inventor of the famous cyclone vacuum cleaner built more than 5127 prototypes. After repeated building and testing, he came up with the one that was successful.
The engineer brings value to the table by a deep desire to fix things that are broken and solve problems that are complex.
“Manufacturing is more than just putting parts together. It’s coming up with ideas, testing principles and perfecting the engineering, as well as final assembly.”- James Dyson
3. The Cross-pollinator Persona
“Cross-Pollinators retain the childlike ability to see patterns others don’t, and to spot key differences. But they’ve also honed the very adult skill of applying those subtle differences in new contexts. They often think in metaphors, enabling them to see relationships and connections that others miss. They act as matchmakers, creating unusual combinations that often spark innovative hybrids. Cross-Pollinators frequently approach problems from unusual angles. They sometimes make a practice of ‘doing without’—tackling a problem by considering solutions without some key element popularly considered standard or essential.”- Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman, The Ten Faces of Innovation
The cross-pollinator explores other industries, cultures and practices for ideas. They use the revelations generated by cross-exploration for new creative ideas.
An example of a cross-pollinator would be someone traveling to another country to look for new ideas. Looking for creative solutions from the perspective of another culture or discipline would be another example.
A great example of a cross-pollinator is Leonardo Da Vinci. Da Vinci was a painter, geologist, sculptor, anatomist, cartographer, writer, musician, painter, engineer, botanist and an inventor.
Kelley and Littman describe that IDEO uses show and tell meetings to enhance cross-pollination. The IDEO tech box is the collection of novel technologies used for sharing with others.
Another way IDEO encourages cross-pollination is by hiring people with diverse backgrounds. They also have know-how speaker series where everyone is encouraged to learn from visitors.
IDEO calls an ideal cross-pollinator to be “a T shaped individual.” The arms of the T represent empathy across different disciplines. The main vertical line of the T represents deep knowledge in their own discipline.
4. The Child Persona
“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” ― Socrates
In This persona, you develop deep curiosity and a sense of playfulness.
You step into the child persona when you:
Look at problems with a beginners mind.
Become fearless to unleash your creative powers.
Use the power of role-play to understand problems.
Have a child like sense of wonder and excitement.
Use manipulatives or materials around to create new iterations.
Be spontaneously creative.
Have a simple focus and be present to the problem.
Make work and creativity fun and exciting.
Creativity researcher Tina Seelig’s class at Stanford has manipulatives, crayons and other supplies like a pre-school does. Students can sit in small groups on the floor and unleash their creativity.
Celebrated Korean novelist Young-ha Kim challenges you to invoke and unleash your inner child and makes a call to action In his TED talk. Kim says: “Be an artist, right now!”
“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
5. The Positive Optimist
“Life is a helluva lot more fun if you say yes rather than no.” – Richard Branson
Positivity and optimism have been shown in studies to improve and enhance creativity.
The positive optimist brings the benefits and advantages of the creative project to the table. They work diametrically opposite to the Devils advocate persona who looks for problems.
Positive optimists are in a mission to mine the plusses or the value that a particular idea or creative project brings to the table.
It is true that most creative ideas get shut down before they can even be considered or taken action upon.
The highly successful and creative entrepreneur, Richard Branson is very optimistic in his approach and loves to say “yes.”
Here is an excerpt from a post that I wrote about him:
The staff at Virgin have a name for Branson and it is “Dr. Yes.” Branson explains that the reason they call him that is because he is not willing to take no for an answer and will not say no. He finds all the reasons to do something rather than not do them.
In the book, Screw it, Let’s do it, Branson says that the little word “cannot” or “can’t” should not be something that stops you from doing what you love to do in your life. His strategy and motto in life are truly “screw it, let’s do it!”
End of excerpt.
Bright spot thinking can also enhance creativity.
Dan and Chip Heath describe Bright spot thinking their book, Switch.
Looking at what is working for others and what is not allows us to make effective and creative decisions. We can further build on that knowledge in our creative projects.
6. The Anthropologist Persona
“Far from being some fluffy, esoteric process of questionable value, the Anthropologist role is the single biggest source of innovation at IDEO. Like most of our client companies, we have lots of great problem-solvers. But you have to know what problem to solve. And people filling the Anthropologist role can be extremely good at reframing a problem in a new way—informed by their insights from the field—so that the right solution can spark a breakthrough.”-Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman, The Ten Faces of Innovation
The anthropologist persona is a keen observer of human behavior and seeks to understand and resolve problems.
According to Kelley and Littman, Anthropologists have the following qualities:
The wisdom to have an open beginners mind.
They embrace human behavior with the inherent surprises.
They do not judge but instead choose empathy and observe humans in social settings.
They are not afraid to use and listen to their intuition to come to creative conclusions and solutions.
They have a sense of “vuja de” or a sense of seeing something for the first time even though you may have seen it several times in the past.
They have “bug lists” or a list of things that bother them.
They have “idea wallets” or ideas that are worth following or implementing and problems that need solutions.
“When you seek out field observations, remember: The more emotional breadth you gather, the better. The more human needs and desires you unearth for your experiential map, the more likely it is that they will lead you to promising new opportunities.- Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman, The Ten Faces of Innovation
The authors give the example of IDEO employee Roshi Givechi who has a film and new media background.
When asked to improve the patient experience at a hospital, what would you do? Speak with doctors and nurses, talk to patients or distribute surveys?
Roshi took the anthropologist persona to a new level by bringing a video camera into the hospital room.
After Roshi acquired the permissions of the patient and the hospital, she moved in with a patient who was undergoing hip replacement surgery.
She set up her camera to record a few seconds every few minute for as long as 48 hours.
Roshi also understood the patient experience by staying in the room for 2 days, getting a little nap occasionally.
Her video showed many new insights of the patient experience. The incessant coming in and out of staff, doors opening, and noise outside making it almost impossible to rest.
It also showed how staff tried to make the patient more comfortable. They bent rules like visiting hours restrictions and the number of family members allowed inside.
Looking at a situation from the perspective of the person experiencing it gives a novel opportunity for creative solutions. It gives you a chance to look at the problems and the opportunities.
“The Anthropologist brings new learning and insights into the organization by observing human behavior and developing a deep understanding of how people interact physically and emotionally with products, services, and spaces.”- Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman, The Ten Faces of Innovation
7. The Set Producer Persona
The set producer takes care of the many tiny details that go into the implementation of the creative project.
They manage teams and move the project along. They stick to deadlines and often come to immediate creative solutions. They look for a pragmatic approach to make everything work together.
When you are in this persona you pay attention to:
Creative solutions to productivity problems.
Managing effective flow of the different processes.
Efficient Organization of all the resources.
You do not need to look further than the production team of a major movie as an example.
The production team makes sure that everything moves along smoothly. It may have to implement many creative solutions to achieve that goal.
8. The Experimenter Or the Scientist Persona
The experimenter uses trial and error and experiments to generate new creative ideas.
Who exactly is an experimenter?
“At IDEO, we think it’s someone who makes ideas tangible—dashing off sketches, cobbling together creations of duct tape and foam core, shooting quick videos to give personality and shape to a new service concept.”- Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman, The Ten Faces of Innovation
To enhance the inner experimenter, IDEO has carts with many materials for prototyping. These carts allow people to build quick and creative prototypes.
The experimenter quickly uses different approaches and ideas for creative ideation and prototyping.
An example of the experimenter persona is the amazing story of the famous Wright brothers.
In 1889, when he was 18, Orville Wright started a self-made a printing press business.
His brother, Wilbur soon joined him in the business. The press did quite well and in a few years when bicycles were getting more popular, the brothers decided to join in. They set up a custom bicycle shop across the street
“If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance”-Orville Wright
Flight and aviation were interesting to the brothers. They spent many hours studying the design and principles of aviation.
The brothers tested their designs that they built in a self-built wind tunnel.
They built their wind tunnel using an old fan and attaching it to a six-foot wood box.
In this creative way, the experimenting brothers tested miniature wing designs and the lift required for flight.
The brothers also experimented with many kites and motorless gliders.
They received inspiration from the natural world and the amazing flight capabilities of birds. Along the way, they took careful notes and data.
In 1903, at Kitty Hawk, the brothers tested their 40 foot wingspan “Flyer 1.” Flyer 1 stayed airborne for 12 seconds and flew 120 feet…the rest is history.
It is worth mentioning here that the Wright brothers competed against much better funded and savvy teams. These teams were competitive and wanted to be the first to achieve human flight.
The tinkering and experimental skills of this bicycle-manufacturing duo at Kitty Hawk finally stood apart.
9. The Observer Or The Nature Bird Watcher Persona
“You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”-Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The observer makes it her job to watch things with a keen sense of interest.
They have developed a habit to pay attention to detail and can see context and compositions that others may miss.
A great way to develop this persona is to watch birds in nature. Another way is to sit in your workspace during a break or a restaurant and close your eyes for a minute and recall all the things that you can remember.
An example of the bird watcher or the observer is the fictional character Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes’s observations skills are fictional legend.
He based his meticulous approach on a foundation of deep and uncompromising observation.
10. The Storyteller Persona
“The world is shaped by two things — stories told and the memories they leave behind.” ― Vera Nazarian
The storyteller collects and narrates compelling narratives from real life situations and people. This narrative makes them become aware of unique perspectives and to develop new and creative ideas.
Kelley and Littman give you several reasons why stories are important. They highlight IDEO’er Roshi Givechi’s work with an IDEO advocacy group that came up with several reasons.
Among the reasons are:
Storytelling is a great way to build credibility.
Stories can help teams bond by unleashing powerful emotions.
Storytelling can sway groups and creates heroes.
Stories can assist in making sense of order out of chaos.
The authors give the example of the runaway success of fortune cookies.
They say that cookies are mostly popular for the shared experience and that they are 10% cookie and 90% experience. The experience of grabbing your cookie and breaking it with a snap and waiting your turn to read the fortune aloud to the group is quite satisfying.
I have also noticed that people fit their current stories of life with their newly acquired fortune from the cookie.
11. The Actress or Actor Persona
When you are in this persona, you believe that life is a stage and you are the protagonist in a play or a movie.
The actress or actor persona takes advantage of the following:
The underlying drama and tension of a situation.
Deep emotions and emotional responses to a creative idea for testing viability.
Doing quick iterations and creative dress rehearsals.
Use intuition and gut reactions to improvise a creative project at the spot.
The actor or the actress can make the creative process livelier by infusing it with story, drama, unique perspective and emotions.
An example would be your most favorite TV or movie characters and how they would approach a creative problem or a solution?
What would be their perspective?
12. The Connector Persona
The connector persona brings different elements and people together to creatively solve a problem.
The connector believes that nothing meaningful can be accomplished by isolation.
Is an expert in assembling a great team.
Does not hesitate to ask for creative input and feedback.
Feels like the world is a collaborative place.
Has a touch and quality to resolve disputes in people.
Can mobilize a team towards a common goal or objective.
An example of a connector is the person in your organization or your life who connects people together. They bring, hold and sustain everyone together like glue.
Things become shared and more exciting because connectors can bring out the collaborative best in a person.
“Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.” – Charles Eames
Now over to you!
Let me know in the comments below if any of these personas resonate with you.
Can you add some personas or tips to enhance creativity?
I would love to hear from you!
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